These sweet cheese pastries called in Romanian “Poale in brau” or “Branzoaice” are considered to be an emblem of the region of Moldova and its cuisine. The pastries are traditionally made with salty sheep cheese and served as a snack, with a little bit of sour cream right next to them. A glass of dry white wine is also served.
If the pastries are designed to be served as dessert, then Farmer’s cheese is added to the salty cheese and some sugar and raisins are complementing the cheese, to make the little pies sweeter. If sweet, the pastries are sprinkled with powder sugar. Sometimes, a little bit of honey is drizzled over them. As for the wine, if you serve them as a dessert, a sweet, light, red or rose wine is perfect for them, and also traditional.
The recipe is so delicious that now it is made not only in Moldova, but in other regions of Romania. I had them both salty and sweet and I have to tell you that I loved both versions. To make authentic ones, obviously it is difficult, because of the ingredients. The cheese is what makes them special. However, I encourage you to make them, so you can get a glimps of what they are.
You might find the recipe intimidating, but it really is not. If you have a stand up mixer to help you knead the dough, things are pretty easy. I used my Kitchen Aid that I love, because it saves a lot of time.
Also, in this recipe, because it is made with a mixer, most ingredients are incorporated at once, so you don’t need to be worried about working with yeast, if you don’t have much experience.
A note about this recipe: If you live in United States and would like to make this recipe, look for Farmer’s Cheese. It is a fresh cheese that has a small curd and it is not salty. Probably in Europe, you will find this Farmer’s Cheese under the name of cottage cheese. The closest to this cheese is ricotta, which you can try to substitute with.
The original recipes have a little bit of semolina added to the cheese filling, because sometimes the cheese is thinner or contains too much water, and the semolina helps absorbing the moisture from the cheese. That makes the filling creamier and delicious.
I saw some recipes out there that have a bunch of ingredients that should never be added to a real Poale in Brau recipes, like powder milk, for example. I am not sure what the powder milk was doing in the cheese filling, but it is definitely a wrong ingredient to add.
Stay true to the recipe and use the ingredients indicated on the list. These pastries are sweet, as I used Farmer’s cheese, a little bit of sugar and raisins in the filling. If you want to make them savory, use a good Feta cheese. You can also mix it with some Farmer’s cheese, for a milder taste. You will not be sorry!
If you make them, feel free to snap a picture and post it under the comments. I am curious to see what you came up with and if you liked it. Enjoy! Interested in another delicious snack made with yeast dough? Try the recipe of Mucenici, another traditional Romanian one.
- For the dough:
- 4.5 cups/19.4oz/550 g all purpose flour
- ⅓ cups/2.1oz/60 g granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon/10 g dry yeast
- a pinch of salt
- 1 lemon zest
- 2 large egg yolks
- 3.5tablespoons/1.76oz/50 g unsalted butter room temperature
- 1.2cups/10 fl oz/300 ml warm milk
- For the filling:
- 17.6oz/500 g farmer's cheese
- 2 large eggs
- a pinch of salt
- 1 cup/7 oz/200g granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 lemon zest
- 1 cup/5 oz/150 g raisins(packed)
- ½ cup/3.5/100 g semolina
- Separately: 1 beaten egg for brushing the pastries before baking
- Optional: powder sugar for dusting
- How to make the dough:
- In a KitchenAid mixer place flour, egg yolks, butter, sugar, salt, lemon zest and yeast. On low speed, with the dough hook attached, start mixing the ingredients.
- Add warm milk little by little to form a dough.
- When the dough is formed, increase the speed of the mixer to medium and let the mixer knead the dough for about 10 minutes.
- The dough should be elastic, smooth and not sticky. Remove the dough from the mixer and place it in an oiled bowl. Cover the dough with plastic foil or a clean kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm place until it doubles in volume.
- How To Make The Filling:
- While the dough is rising, prepare the filling.
- Beat well the two eggs and add them to the farmer's cheese. Add vanilla, lemon zest, the pinch of salt, raisins and the semolina. If the cheese mixture is too runny, add another tablespoon of semolina until you get a creamy consistency.
- Mix well to incorporate the ingredients.
- How to Make The Pastries:
- Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Cover the bottom of a baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.
- After the dough has doubled in volume, sprinkle some flour on the working surface and dump the dough on the table. Split the dough in half.
- Grab a half of the dough and roll it with the rolling pin. You should end up with a square aprox. 12x12 inches.
- Cut the dough into 6 equal squares, using a knife.
- Place a full spoon of the cheese filling in the middle of a square. Fold two opposite corners towards the middle and press well to make sure they stick together. Then, fold the other two opposite corners, so you end up having a pastry that looks like an envelope.
- Place it on the tray and continue the same with the rest of the dough.
- You should have 12 pastries.
- Do not overcrowd the pastries. Place only about 6 pastries on the tray, as they will quite rise during baking.
- Beat an egg and brush each pastry with it.
- Bake them for about 25-30 mins or until golden brown.
- Remove them from the tray, let them cool on a rack, then sprinkle powder sugar over them.(the powder sugar is optional)